Black Honey Wings, Part VII

They ate.

Everyone picked up on the Captain’s lead and played dumb, even though all of them were quite familiar with Fergie meat and how it looked – not to mention tasted. To be honest, Barducci quite liked it. As far as shark meat went, it was heavier and fattier and usually tastier than most. You just had to chew with caution. The flesh was rubbery, and you never knew when your teeth were going to encounter metal. Fergunak were riddled with nodes, diodes, optic enhancements and other devilry.

It wasn’t such a big deal once you’d taken that first bite. Eating any animal required you to first get past the idea that it had some sort of mind, and after that it was only a matter of degree. The Fergunak themselves had no social or cultural taboos with eating their own kind, and famously didn’t care if anyone else ate them either. They, after all, had absolutely no compunctions about doing it to other sentient species when the opportunity arose, even when they were repeatedly asked not to.

It was, at least the first time he’d done it, something of a restoration of balance for Barducci. Revenge eating, old Feathers called it.

Skelliglyph had been sitting across the table from him that time, too. It occurred to Drago that a great many of the worst things he’d done, at least gastronomically speaking, he’d done with Çrom Skelliglyph sitting nearby, grinning around a mouthful of the same shit. Come to think of it, most of the worst things he’d done in general had been done with this scruffy-haired son of a whore somewhere in the background.

He wondered if this was maybe something he should be more concerned about.

“Mmm,” Skell exclaimed, chewing slowly with his eyes closed. “That is delicious. Is it Marganite greatfish? And what’s that seasoning? Don’t tell me, it’s some sort of lemon-pepper. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted such a perfect combination. Delicate, yet piquant.”

“I prefer it with ham, myself,” Drago muttered, giving Skell a meaningful look.

“Everyone’s a critic. Please excuse my Chief Tactical Officer, Captain Dool,” Çrom went on. “He probably ate a skuntrigold before starting his shift. He has no appreciation for the finer things in life.”

“Flying with you, it’s probably just a matter of the finer things in life being unfamiliar and scary to me,” Barducci grunted, and gave the grinning Dool a nod. “This is good. It’s not greatfish though – some sort of gator, isn’t it?”

“I don’t bother my quartermaster and he doesn’t bother me,” Dool said expansively, seeming to be entirely at ease and smirking at their apparent ignorance as they enjoyed their meal. He even let Barducci rummage in his pockets and belt, murmuring about needing a little spice, without tensing up at all. Unforgivable laxness. Drago hit his person-to-person whisper beacon en route, and pressed the firing stud on the thresh-blaster in his belt for good measure. It would have scored a nasty little gash in the floor, but as he had suspected their weapons were dead. Presumably some sort of localised security field shutting off their command protocols, or else a kill-panel at the dock had fried the firing pads. Those were a damn pain to fix, so he hoped it was the former. Of course, that would leave Dool’s crew essentially disarmed as well.

So, probably the kill-panel.

Should’ve brought some chemical shooters, he grumbled to himself.

“What did I tell you?” Skell said as Barducci finally produced the little metal canister and gave it a shake. “He’s always got hoco-nut with him. Never a meal so bad he can’t ruin with that taste-bud-melting crap.”

“What is skuntrigold?” Dool wanted to know.

“Oh,” Skell said around another mouthful of Fergunakil, “your skuntrigold is like a horse – you know horse? Uh, claddatak? Claddadatak?”

“Ah,” the Noro grinned, and gave a passable impression of a horse’s whinny. “Chaddachak.”

“Exactly. Well, your skuntrigold is like a long horse with six legs instead of four, and a head like a block of concrete with two eyes on each side,” he poked forked fingers at one side of his head, then the other, to illustrate. “They export them from Radagast, all throughout the Hubris systems. They taste like boiled arse.”

“Put enough hoco on them,” Drago said mildly, unscrewing the canister and sprinkling a little of the mustard-coloured powder on the side of his plate.

“Oh yeah,” Skell blathered. “Put enough hoco-nut on it and anything becomes edible,” he leaned over and nudged the Bonshoon sitting too-nonchalantly beside him. “You know,” he said, “I reckon he could eat a-”

Skelliglyph stabbed the Bonshoon in the eye with his fork.

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Black Honey Wings, Part VI

“Are you hungry? Bori, bring the food. We have meat, for you hungry omnivores.”

Their Head of Science, Marcila Martin, had a lot to say about evolution. Particularly the point at which, in her words, “it got interesting”. And this, according to Marcila, was the point at which members of any given species started saying “I like your clothes” to each other.

It wasn’t that Martin was a fashion-obsessed airhead. She was just more cultural anthropologist than biologist. She also played a mean game of exchange tag for a human who had blown a hundred and forty-seven candles off her last birthday cake.

Anyway, her point about evolution was that it was rare for herbivorous species to make it out of the arms race of prehistory and drag their nasty baggage into the bold new dawn of sentience. Drago didn’t really follow all the ins and outs of it, because Marcila could really wax lyrical when she’d had an extra stim pellet in her zolo, but it all boiled down to hunting. Well, Drago understood that much. Humans, and the Molranoid races, had been through their hunting-and-gathering phases. The Fergunak – as pure carnivores and aquatic, Marcila said, they were even rarer than herbivorous sentients because the sea was basically nightmare soup on any planet in the galaxy, no matter what liquid the sea happened to be made of – the Fergunak had been dragged into the higher intelligence registers by the Damorakind, and as for the aki’Drednanth, well. Nobody really knew about them. They’d reached enlightenment millions of years ago and were now just perfectly content to reincarnate themselves, in the womb, as giant shaggy ice monsters.

It took all sorts, really.

But it was clear enough, even to Drago Barducci, that if you were a herbivore you would basically start on the road to civilisation with just and-gathering to your name, and that meant you missed out on not only a whole heap of delicious protein and stuff, but also on a lot of teamwork and communication and abstract thinking, not to mention fifty thousand years or so of getting to have sex because you killed something really angry and dangerous. Which, okay, it hadn’t turned the human race into the nicest species in the galaxy, but they were still here, weren’t they?

Then again, according to Marcila, sentient herbivores were worse.  Because the early stages of evolution were all about kill or be killed, and usually eat or be eaten. And herbivores didn’t kill for food. On most planets, with the exception of scary outliers like Gethsemane, plants didn’t do a lot of fighting back. So aside from the obvious challenge of dispatching carnivores who didn’t want to let you eat your salad in peace, there was no corresponding vegetarian option to the development offered by hunting.

What this meant was that most herbivore species who made it to self-awareness, tool-building, and eventually to whatever the vegan equivalent of the top of the food chain was, were ones who had developed the urge to kill for pleasure. And this tended to make them sub-optimal candidates for interplanetary relations, even when the other candidates included murderous cybernetic sharks, yetis that could kill you by thinking nasty thoughts, and a species of mostly-hairless ape that had had more genocidal wars among its own kind than every other known sentient species in the galaxy had had with other species. Combined.

The Noro Metak, although they were big and aggressive and more than sufficiently predatory, had not – as far as researchers were aware – taken the killing-for-sport path to civilisation. They had simply been fortunate enough to evolve on a planet where there were no seriously threatening carnivores, omnivores or scavengers. Nothing capable of taking on the big bovinids, anyway. Any animal that might have had a shot at apex predator had been head-butted and stamped on until it changed its mind millions of years ago.

The Noro Metak homeworld, as a result, was an interesting place for biologists. And their culture a topic about which Marcila Martin could rhapsodise for hours.

Many scientists, Martin included, theorised that the Noros had achieved sentience and higher intelligence simply as a survival mechanism. With no natural predators worth talking about, their population had gone through explosive growth and then famine cycles, their planet’s landmasses cycling through mirroring phases of abundance and dustbowl drought, for hundreds of millennia until the Noros learned how to regulate their environment and manage their population. But they were herbivorous through and through, biology and society developing hand in hand. They didn’t even have a conceptual framework for eating flesh, although there were a few species on their homeworld that did it. These were called chashishlittle things, pointy teeth – and were largely considered to be a distasteful but necessary part of the biosphere. Like things that enjoyed the company of faeces.

Oh, speaking of faeces…

Sitting down to a first meal with the Noro Metak, back when AstroCorps had made official first contact, had been a delicate business. Since then, as Skell had previously mentioned, the Noro buccaneers had overcompensated with considerable enthusiasm. They usually took great delight in seeking out the tastiest and most exotic food and drink, so they could enjoy watching the weird aliens eat it.

Drago, however, still remembered the taste of bollg, almost-digested plant material dredged all the way up from a stomach so far down the line it might as well have been a colon. The Noro Metak considered it a great act of friendship to share such individually imbued produce. Or so the translators and diplomats and researchers had insisted, although Drago distinctly recalled most of their servings being decidedly small. Honestly, it would have been much less effort to excrete it from the other end. And probably wouldn’t have had that much impact on the flavour and consistency.

The best thing about that night had been sitting opposite Skell, and getting to watch his face as the Noro ambassador personally served up seconds.

All of this flashed through Drago’s mind when Captain Dool offered them food, and all of it contributed to Drago’s feeling of relief when Captain Dool told them there was meat.

This relief lasted right up until the moment they were all in the Nope, Leftovers’s dome section, all seated around the slightly-too-big-for-ordinary-sized-humans Molranoid-standard boardroom table, and Bori – a grinning Bonshoon who was rotund even for a Bonshoon – set the platter of meat in the centre of the table using all four of his massive arms. It was a great steaming, sizzling slab of pale flesh, seasoned with ‘ponic herbs and still frying lightly in its own fat, and it smelled quite delicious.

It was also quite clearly Fergunakil meat.

Drago looked across the table at Skell, who was smiling pleasantly and exclaiming over how mouth-watering the food smelled and how their hosts really hadn’t needed to go to so much trouble. Their gazes met for a moment, and Barducci felt an unaccustomed chill at the blank death in Çrom Skelliglyph’s eyes.

Captain Nak Dool knows who we are, Skell might as well have been transmitting on an aki’Drednanth brainwave. Get ready.

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One More Interlude: Proud Daddy Moment

For the record, I have actually finished my project work, just need to publish the docs and check through them and then explain to the team (who won’t bother reading because the explanation will be so long) what I have done.

So I am now just decompressing and having a think about how to proceed. And yes, working on the next bits of basically everything at once.

My cover for Bonshoon should be ready by the weekend, which means I will be putting it up for pre-order early next week. Then probably releasing when we head to Australia in mid-June. I can’t wait to show off this cover.

Anyway, yesterday evening we had one of those classic parenting moments – Wump had a little performance thingy for her dance class. I understood that this was one of those things that always come back to bite the deadbeat father when he never has time to go to any of his kid’s shows or sporting matches or whatever, so I was determined to make it. That meant working myself to the edge of lunacy yesterday.

And yes, it was adorable. The show, that is. Although me working myself to the edge of lunacy was probably also pretty cute.

Wump's dance recital

She did indeed entertain the audience with a loud explanation of her gaming plans for later in the evening.

Wump did splendidly and Toop was very entertained. I can’t deny man-tears, although they didn’t actually spill down my cheeks and make my beard salty.

But it was close.

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Another Interlude: Monday!

No, there’s no consistency to when I put “Interlude”. Sometimes, like with my Way Backstory (remember that? Probably not), there is such a ridiculous break between segments that it’s really pointless having an “Interlude”.

But I do intend to come back to all of these things. And (to borrow a phrase from George RR Martin) I do have Part VI of Black Honey Wings almost ready, I just don’t have the time to dedicate to getting it done right now.

As for the actual Black Honey Wings story itself, I’m not super certain where it’s heading. Obviously it’s a prequel teaser type deal, but I’m just letting the whole thing play out. I’m doing my best to not connect it too much with The Final Fall of Man, because too many linkages and I’ll end up just trying to track them for hour after hour. Still, it’s canon (although blogs can be edited), so I need to take a little bit of care.

The weekend was busy, and I found myself irritable and sleepy for a lot of it. Actually passed out for a few hours on Saturday, which was nice – but strange, for me. And Sunday was … well, it was fun, despite the variable weather and the fact that I was landed with looking after Wump for basically the entire day, while Mrs. Hatboy enjoyed the maailma kylässä markets and eateries with a mostly-sleeping Toop.

Still, despite my grumbling I don’t begrudge her that – she does love a good market-wander and Wump would never have tolerated walking at that pace. And I got all the spring rolls and fried chicken I wanted. Also came home with a bag full of ginger beer. And then Mrs. Hatboy thoughtfully took Wump and Toop over to mommo‘s for the evening, because mommo and ukki had just returned from vacation and had missed the girls terribly. So I got a little time off to sit and stare blankly at my computer screen.

Friday’s office outing was fun too, although now I have to go and make up for lost time with this dumb project I’m trying to finish.

So. Ugh.

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Maailma Kylässä

I thought I was going to get time to finish the little writing bit I was working on, but looks like no time off this weekend. Out most of Friday, wrangling kids and taking out our enormous pile of recycling backlog and chopping wood Saturday (with a two hour sleep in the middle of the day after we put Toop to bed, because I was suddenly just shattered), then shopping Saturday afternoon and a visit to the uncle-in-law’s place after dinner (which I walked to), and now it’s coming up on midnight.

So I will pre-write this for tomorrow instead of finishing off Part VI. Today we’re off to the always-enjoyable maailma kylässä, the world village food and culture fest. Nice for a bit of atmosphere, some ginger beer and bubble tea and fried plantain and spring rolls. The past few years have been generally spent watching Wump in the playground. But still fun.

Then back to work Monday to try to get this damn project put to bed.


Oh, and no. I don’t care about Eurovision this year. No, not even because Australia is in it. The only worthwhile act didn’t make the finals, so screw the Eurovision.

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Agent Carter

It’s going to be a busy weekend and I’m early for my bus, so maybe I should write a quick review.

Mrs. Hatboy and I recently watched all eight entertaining episodes of Marvel’s Agent Carter on Netflix. It was really very nicely done.

Somewhere in between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Daredevil in content and tone, this show follows Peggy Carter in her adventures after World War II ended and in the wake of Captain America’s disappearance. I thought they were going to overdo the poignancy of that, but – as always with Marvel these days – I was pleasantly surprised. There are a few sad moments where Carter goes through the process of giving up on ever finding Rogers, and Stark goes through a similar closure, but the creators mostly take it as read that we all know Cap is frozen until the Avengers need him.

So Carter doesn’t waste time mooning over him, and instead gets on with kicking arse and taking names. This is cast into contrast (I was going to say”stark contrast”) by the Captain America radio show we cross to from time to time, with its simpering female lead in constant need of rescue. Brilliant.

While the chauvinism and Carter’s heroic and ultimately fruitful battle against it is perhaps a little overdone for dramatic effect, I guess we ’70s-’80s-’90s babies have to realise we have no idea what gender inequality really is. Okay, because I don’t want to make this a sexism thing, there’s still plenty of gender inequality around, but what I mean is we have no real idea what it was like back then. World War II is really ancient history. Most of the people who were adults back then are … well, dead or dying, or at the very least senior citizens.

So, it’s a very well-handled arc as Carter earns respect. And the plots of each episode and the way they all come together – also well done. The tie-ins with Hydra, Stark, the Howling Commandos, and later Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D episodes is nothing short of brilliant. We all know where this world ends up in the mid ’00s, but the threats here are not diminished by that. And we know Carter survives because we saw her in The Winter Soldier, but there’s still tension there. We see the shape of things to come.

I’m not entirely sure where Red Skull’s doctor and budding Hydra Jarvis comes into it and starts to work. I seem to recall there was a Cinemasins ping about his timeline not making sense between the two Cap movies, but maybe Carter is here to solve that.

Have to quit. WordPress reached its word limit and I am typing blind.

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Friday: The One Before The Weekend

Meh, not much to add today. We were out reasonably late last night eating sushi and watching Game of Thrones, so went straight to bed and had to go straight to the bus this morning. Went to Tikkurila for the first time by bus, which was nice. Sisäinen tickets are delightfully cheap.

Off to Tampere today, getting picked up here. Office bus trip, yeah!

Anyway, the upshot is, I didn’t get time to sit and write anything for the blog. And yesterday I was flat-out trying to get my work done so I could take Friday off for this internal thing. Oh well, didn’t quite get it done, will have to continue Monday. Don’t get me ranting about this project.

Game of Thrones was pretty good. We’re only three episodes in though, so a lot of what people are raving about right now is going over my head. Seriously though, who would have expected Ramsay Bolton to me a psycho? He’s literally shown no sign of it up to now…

Mmm. Sushi.

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